Get Back to Québec’s Roots With These 10 Indigenous Experiences

Pêche au homard avec la famille Lalo
Alexis Pageau

Content partner: Indigenous Tourism Québec

With 11 Indigenous Nations and 55 Indigenous communities, Québec offers a unique opportunity to meet Indigenous peoples. Their rich cultures interweave tradition and modernity, ancestral knowledge, and respect for nature, wisdom, and community. From sites and events to food, accommodations, and outdoor activities, here are 10 meaningful Indigenous experiences in Québec.

  • 1

    Attend a Pow-Wow or an Indigenous Cultural Festival

    Open to everyone, these festive, colourful events are times to gather and share. They’re a chance for people from Indigenous communities to come out and celebrate their traditions—and for you to see them! Take Pow-wows. In these competitions, dancers from different Nations put on their regalia and compete to the sound of the drum.

    Organized by the Huron-Wendat Nation and just a few minutes from downtown Québec City, Wendake’s international pow-wow is attended by people from Indigenous communities around the world. KWE! Meet with Indigenous Peoples is another event held in Québec City. It features a great lineup of events celebrating the traditions and current realities of First Nations and Inuit.

    And don’t miss the traditional pow-wow in Pessamit. It’s a major event for the Innu community of Pessamit, as is the Great Gathering of the First Nations of Mashteuiatsh, where communities have come together every summer on the shores of Lac Saint-Jean to visit and share for thousands of years. Mashteuiatsh also hosts the Atalukan Tales and Legends Festival in August, a unique opportunity to dive into the wonderful worlds and rich oral traditions of First Nations. For more great storytelling there’s also the Innucadie Stories and Legends Festival. Or, for Indigenous music and art, there’s the Innu Nikamu Festival near Sept-Îles.

    To learn more about Indigenous cultural events during the summer, see the Pow-Wow Trail.

  • 2

    Hear Indigenous Tales and Legends

    For millennia, Indigenous knowledge has been passed on orally between generations and communities. These tales and legends aren’t mere entertainment or bedtime stories. They draw on myths, such as the creation of Mother Earth, that inform the worldviews of First Peoples. As they enthral their audiences, Indigenous storytellers are also playing a vital roll passing on their knowledge and culture. Intrigued? Head to Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations in Wendake for an evening of myths and legends around a wood fire in the Huron-Wendat Longhouse. Or, if you’re in Gaspésie, the Micmac Interpretation Site of Gespeg has a “Legends and Campfire” package featuring stories, songs, and bannock bread.

  • 3

    Camp Out in a Traditional Setting

    What better way to reconnect with ancestral ways of life than by spending a night in traditional Indigenous lodgings? Nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples have lived in nature for millennia in teepees, longhouses, wigwams, and igloos, among others.

    Many communities give you the chance to try it for yourself—sometimes even close to the city. In Wendake, we love the overnight stay in Ekionkiestha’ Longhouse at Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations. Come sleep under the logs and beams of this large traditional dwelling common to many Iroquoian Nations. There’s room for the whole family! Right next door you’ll find a hotel with superb rooms that combine Indigenous traditions and modern comfort, for a truly unique stay. Head over to Aventure Plume Blanche in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean. You can sleep in a teepee, a traditional tent, or even under the shaputuan, a huge conical tent that can accommodate up to 30 people.

  • 4

    Explore an Accurately Reconstructed Traditional Indigenous Site

    Travel back in time and discover a traditional Indigenous culture and way of life. You can visit different types of dwellings along with buildings used for medicine, spirituality, or to make canoes and other objects and works of art.

    Wendake has a very comprehensive immersive journey at the Traditional Huron Onhoüa Chetek8e Site featuring dancing, storytelling, craft demonstrations, and outdoor activities, including a canoe trip. You’ll also find fabulous fare at NEK8ARRE restaurant and gorgeous crafts at Le Huron.

    In Gaspésie, the Micmac Interpretation Site of Gespeg is home to both a fascinating museum and a traditional village and summer camp as Europeans might have seen in the 17th century. With a proud representative of the people of the sea as your guide, you’ll learn all about the traditional Gespeg way of life, including ancient trapping and fishing techniques.

  • 5

    Get a Taste of the Great Outdoors

    Indigenous cultures and lifestyles can also be shared on the plate, with ingredients from the wild wilderness and the Boreal forest taking centre stage. Although hunting, fishing, and gathering provide the basic ingredients for these millennial culinary cultures, today’s talented and inventive chefs also draw on contemporary influences. Not to be missed, Wendake’s Restaurant La Traite is representative of this tasty alliance between tradition and modernity. We love the menus inspired by the region and the seasons, with game marinated in forest spices and tons of other tempting dishes. It’s great food in a magnificent setting, with a dining room and patio on the banks of the Akiawenrahk’ River.

    Twenty minutes from there, in Old Québec, Sagamité Restaurant gives you another chance to try Huron-Wendat cuisine. We love the house specialty, a flaming game dish called Yatista, as well as the traditional Sagamité soup made with corn, squash, and beans—the “three sisters.”

  • 6

    Attend Lobster Fishing the Innu Way

    Going on a lobster fishing trip is just one of the things you’ll do on a day with the Lalo Family. Get ready for a big dose of culture and adventure with Innu of Natashquan. Armed with a simple dip net, an Innu guide will show you the traditional technique for catching these tasty crustaceans at low tide.

    Along with a family meal and a night in a traditional tent, this magical experience lets you connect with the immense wilderness of Nitassinan, the ancestral territory of the Innu Nation. An authentic, immersive experience that shares a sustainable vision of fishing, full of fresh flavours and friendship.

  • 7

    Meet the Whales

    Going whale watching in the St. Lawrence Estuary is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. On the Côte-Nord, you can go out with an Innu company from Essipit and support the local Indigenous community. Leaving from Bergeronnes Wharf, Essipit Cruises takes you out on a Zodiac—an inflatable, highly maneuverable boat that’s fast, safe, and comfortable. Their knowledgeable captains have plenty of experience tracking the giants of the St. Lawrence and will give you the chance to see some of the largest animals on the planet, such as the blue whale.

    For a magical and highly sustainable experience, try a half-day or full-day sea kayaking excursion with Mer et monde Écotours and meet whales in the waters of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park. Their guides are passionate about this incredible environment and love to share their knowledge and experience.

  • 8

    Go Hiking up North into the Alpine Tundra

    Immerse yourself in Innu culture on a trip to see the vast northern wilderness at Uapishka Station, an inn and base camp located near Manicouagan Crater and the Groulx Mountains, in the heart of a UNESCO biosphere reserve. There are tons of outdoor activities on offer, including a guided 5-hour hike through multiple ecosystems leading up to the alpine tundra at the summit of Harfang Mountain. A great escape in Innu territory!

  • 9

    Connect with the Great Outdoors Like Never Before

    Keep travelling along the Côte-Nord, a land of vast forests and endless blue expanses with infinite opportunities for immersive experiences that will bring you closer to traditional Innu culture. The community of Unamen Shipu has packages that will get you up close and personal with nature on the Basse-Côte-Nord.

    You can sleep facing the sea in one of InnuBerge’s cabins and go on a guided tour in the playground of your choice: out on the water, in the forest, or in the local community. Tourisme Winipekut Nature has a one-week Menuenemum wellness package in Unamen Shipu, with activities that get you out into the forest and connecting with Innu culture. There’s also the 4-day, 3-night Apinipehekat package, perfect for exploring the coast and the islands bordering the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The ultimate change of scenery!

  • 10

    See Gorgeous Indigenous Museum Exhibitions

    Indigenous culture is lighting up museums across the province. Within communities, museums play a special role in exhibiting the nation’s history and specificities such as arts and crafts. They are also important tools for transmitting and sharing living culture.

    With its stellar artifact collection and a program of activities dedicated to Pekuakamiulnuatsh culture, Musée amérindien de Mashteuiatsh in Lac Saint-Jean is doing just that.

    The community of Ekuanitshit, on the Côte-Nord, celebrates its language and heritage at Maison de la Culture Innue, an innovative space aimed at bringing people together.

    For an interactive exploration of territory, memory, and knowledge, visit the Huron-Wendat Museum at Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations in Wendake. And while you’re in Québec City, check out “This Is Our Story” at the fabulous Musée de la Civilisation, a major exhibition that explores the roots and contemporary reality of First Nations and Inuit.

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Québec Le Mag'

Québec Le Mag’ is a French-language media outlet dedicated to the two types of people in this world: those who love Québec and those who will soon. Check out their website for great stories, articles, and recommendations.

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